I’d thought my sister would be more grateful for her first-ever recurring role on a new television show, but I was wrong. She never once thanked me for agreeing to a salary cut in exchange for her being cast.
I’d also expected more appreciation for the acting profession, considering our mother and grandmother’s prominence in the San Myshuno theater community, but instead she treated our scenes together like an improv game at her first summer of drama camp, complete with a teenager’s love of hearing herself curse.
Disrespecting the writers’ scripts was a surefire way to end up on their bad side, with a future of asinine plotlines if you weren’t killed off entirely. Writers may never share an actor’s spotlight, but they still took pride in their work. …Generally.
Blood and Bishops clearly wasn’t working with top-tier writing talent, but it was my job as an actor to do what I could with the material. And now I needed to do scenes in the mortuary of a funeral home; fortunately, my sister wasn’t in them.
The funeral home itself had a faintly off-putting smell, but the sights… “Who is that?”
My assistant answered me, though I hadn’t been expecting her to. “Oh, that’s just my cousin Ophelia.”
My gaze wouldn’t leave this Ophelia’s face. Or maybe it drifted just slightly lower. I’d slept with plenty of beautiful women–many of them far more beautiful than her–and yet…
“Are you related to every reasonably attractive woman in Starlight Shores?” I demanded. I’d sworn off the friends and relatives of anyone who worked for me, after that last disastrous experience with my previous personal assistant’s stepsister.
This one’s sister had been beautiful, even more so than this girl at the desk, but I hadn’t found myself particularly drawn to her. I preferred women with more fire and darker hair–among other things.
“Don’t think so.” My assistant apparently enjoyed answering rhetorical questions. “I won’t punch you in the balls if you hit on her or whatever. She’s pretty weird, but as long as it’s not Lyanna…you can have her.”
Whatever mild interest I had in that sister of hers had evaporated the moment I walked through the door of that funeral home.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” said the dark-haired goddess behind the front desk, bathed in a gentle glow as she smiled sympathetically at me.
Oh. She was talking to me. “Ah–yes, thank you.” …Why did I thank her? I should’ve told her I was part of the shoot… But she should’ve recognized me. Unless someone in my family had died, and she’d seen something on her phone–
“Actors,” Ms. Chick muttered in a nearby hall. “Fucking actors. Not even actors! Extras. Fuck ‘em all.” She stomped up to the front desk before I could ask about any of my own possible personal tragedies. “Hey sweetheart, how would you like to get your big break?”
“But my novel’s not finished yet,” said the goddess. “I still have to plumb the depths of my murky well of inspiration…”
“How about you pretend you fell down a well and ended up as a corpse, because that’s what we need right now. All you have to do is lie down on a table and stay real still.”
“An embalming table?”
“You got it, sister.”
“I’ll do it.” Was there a sudden rosiness to those near-alabaster cheeks…?
I’d always (after Young, Haught and Rich and two made-for-TV movies) made a rule of never sleeping with an actress I worked with, but could I make an exception for a one-off extra, should she feel so inclined…?
No, I needed to focus on my performance. Questionable legality aside, I quickly approved of the funeral home set we were shooting on. The authenticity helped me quickly get into character, along with my coroner costume.
By day, my character–Dr. Roland Redgrave–investigated mysterious deaths, checking corpses for signs of vampire attack. By night, he hunted those vampire assailants–and defeated them with nothing more than his own ingenuity…in a game of chess. I didn’t understand, but Roland Redgrave clearly must.
It felt strange to be in front of a camera again, and already I could feel the pressure mounting.
But the extra–this strangely alluring goddess–appeared completely at ease, as though she’d done this countless times before. Bare-faced and wearing nothing more than a simple medical gown (if she were a real corpse and this were cable, she’d be wearing nothing at all), she followed Ms. Chick’s instructions and lay down on the cold metal table.
Yes, I preferred her natural appearance… And even on her back, I could still admire the full scope of her…talent.
Leering at an actress in a professional setting…you’re just like your father. Clearly you don’t respect women.
But I’m admiring her, Mom, I wanted to say. It’s different, isn’t it?
It was important to consider her character in relation to mine as well. What if she was someone he knew, and secretly loved? Should I allow that deeper anguish to seep into my performance, or would Roland manage to hide it from the world? He was a serious, practical man.
When the cameras started rolling, I let that backstory influence my performance. My hands lingered on her bare skin a half-second longer than necessary (all Roland Redgrave would permit himself, to maintain a coroner’s efficiency) as I adjusted the positioning of her arms.
“Barely warm,” I said, a grave expression on my handsome face. “This can only be the work of a vampire.”
But her skin had been very, very warm. Flushed, even. Was she excited, being in the presence of a famous actor?
My love…I shall avenge you, Dr. Roland Redgrave vowed in my mind. “I will destroy the ones responsible–with chess.”
Was she listening as she lay there? Did she approve of my acting, or did she think it was too much Acting with a capital A? Could she detect the authenticity in my performance, and if she wasn’t a fan before, was she a fan now?
Another needy little boy. Why do you want everyone to love you, Rhys?
And then the scene ended. “Cut,” Ms. Chick said from her chair in the corner, not looking up from her phone.
“Blood,” the goddess said, slowly sitting up on the embalming table. “I need blood…”
“Spoken like a true vampiress,” I said. It was always good for a celebrity to seem approachable, and if she ever spoke about me to her friends or posted about me online, she could tell everyone what a down-to-earth and surprisingly humorous actor I was.
“I am now a dark mistress of the night. I need to feed and feel the flow of hot, crimson nectar down my parched throat…”
She slid off the table and turned to look at me with vacant eyes. “Come to me, human. Let me drink my fill of you…”
“Dev, did you get all that?” Ms. Chick said, smirking in the corner. “I think we found our new lady vampire. Bet she works cheap, too–and this is one less scene we’ll have to shoot later.”
“Sure did,” the cameraman said.
“Are you guys done yet?” my assistant demanded, clearly unimpressed by her cousin’s impromptu performance. Was she blind to sheer brilliance?
But I was impressed. If this had been one of my father’s productions, I would’ve gladly let her have her fill of me right there on the embalming table.
…But Blood and Bishops would air on network television, if the pilot was picked up. And now that I knew this goddess would be joining me…it had to air. I watched as Ms. Chick called her over, though the former seemed more interested in a small dog that had appeared out of nowhere.
She couldn’t see the way my goddess’s alabaster skin peeked out the back of her medical gown…
Filthy mind, just like his. She didn’t ask for you to fuck her with your eyes.
I would never lay a hand on her without her permission, I wanted to say. But if she invited my touch, I’d cast aside that medical gown in an instant…
“You in there, boss?” my assistant said, staring at me with that stubborn, creepy face. “Need some coffee?”
“I need a cold shower,” I said.
“Yeah, you can bathe your own damn self.”
“Do you have her number?” I swallowed. “Your cousin’s.”
“I could ask her for it, I guess. Or you could ask her–she’s standing right over there. Pretty creepy to get somebody else to do it…”
“A celebrity can’t do anything himself or he’s no longer a celebrity,” I scoffed. “It’s the law of the stars.” Why was I so enthralled? She wasn’t a vampire, but could she be fae? There had to be some sort of explanation for the strength of this instant attraction…
My father would probably know. But he preferred blondes like my mother, obviously. Was that the reason I avoided them? I’d have to discuss that with Dr. Puck during our next session.
When my goddess walked away to type frantically on a computer–probably some important funeral home business–I approached Ms. Chick. “So,” I said, feigning disinterest. “She’ll be taking part in the show? You must have a lot of faith in her acting ability.”
“Her? Yeah, right. I just love this adorable little shit,” she said. “And we need a replacement for Yolanda ASAP.”
Clearly she didn’t have the discerning eye that I did. But I was the talent, and she was the money. I already knew that this Ophelia would be a star–hopefully at my side.
You’re just like your father. My mother’s words slithered around in my mind like a serpent. A child who wants things.
But she’s my muse, I wanted to say. All the best artists have muses… But I wasn’t the best, and I hadn’t been in a very long time–if I ever was at all.